Rashidi Yekini: His Controversial Last Days And The Life He Lived – A Feature
Long before Rashidi Yekini, Nigeria’s highest goal scorer of all time passed on on Friday, there had been a lot of speculations about his health, especially the mental aspect of it. Quite a number of people opined that the former Super Eagle was depressed. Findings however revealed that contrary to what was being speculated, Yekini might not have suffered from any mental illness, rather he was misunderstood by many, his fans inclusive. While many claimed he suffered depression which resulted in a bipolar disorder, people in his neighbourhood claim Yekini was a man who would rather wish to be left alone.
For instance, many wondered why he chose to live alone in his Ring Road twin duplex, near Oni and Sons Children’s Hospital. His only companions there were the peacocks that strolled about in his compound, having fired his security man months before his death.
It was revealed that the late Goals King was betrayed by a very close friend way back in the 1980s when he played for Africa Sports of Cote d’ Ivoire. Back then, Yekini maintained a flat in Liberty Road where he housed one of his close friends. Street Journal found out that those days, he had the habit of keeping cash at home. On his return at the end of one Ivorian playing season, he discovered that his good friend had depleted his cash reserve and when he asked, the friend could barely account for half of the money. Though no noise was made about the money, the friend moved out and got himself accommodation elsewhere. Not long after, the friend bought a Peugeot 505 while Yekini still made use of the 504 he was given alongside other players of Abiola Babes by the clubs proprietor, Bashorun MKO Abiola. Findings revealed that the occurrence contributed a great deal to the paranoia displayed by the former international till he breathed his last.
His Failed Marriage
Yekini’s marriage lasted barely three weeks as he fell out with his wife just after their honeymoon and they never made up till he died. Not a few of Yekini’s admirers were surprised when they heard that after his honeymoon abroad, the footballer and his wife returned home separately. The wife arrived first and by the time Rashidi arrived about four days later, neighbours could hear him asking what the woman was still doing in his house. He was quoted as saying the woman used juju on him and that the effect of the charms have expired. Within minutes, he started throwing the woman’s properties out. That was the end of the marriage. He however had children from other relationships.
Was He Really Misunderstood?
Many of those who knew Rashidi Yekini will attest to the fact that he had a different way of doing things. When he lived in Liberty Road, many wondered why he would burn items he no longer needed instead of giving them out. He would stay in front of his house then and burn jerseys, boots, video tapes and old stuff.
Moving to Ring Road did not change his attitude.
A neighbour recalled that Yekini once set fire to a refrigerator and some of his furniture. That was what sparked off rumours that he had gone mad.
Another reason that fuelled speculations about his mental health was that he lived all alone in a twin duplex. The security man that used to live with him was fired about 8 months ago. So whenever he wanted to go out, he would open the gate, drive out and lock the gates behind him.
Yekini spent most of his time at the Obafemi Awolowo (formerly Liberty) Stadium where he did keep fit exercises. He would jog round the fit in the mornings and at times he would train with clubs on the field. Sometimes he would decide to swim.
On his way back, he would stop in his neighbourhood to buy bread or snack and when he feels like he could spare a minute or two to talk to one or two people in the neighbourhood, especially when he is greeted.
Why Neighbours Alleged Foul Play
Findings revealed that Yekini never really had friends that came to look for him. He did not allow his family members to get too close too. One of his old neighbours in Liberty Road disclosed that “there was a time one of his younger brothers came from Kaduna or somewhere in the North, but because he was not being expected, he was not allowed in. The guy slept outside the flat and went back the following morning.”
Another incident was also recalled in Ring Road when a woman (apparently Yekini’s sister) came in a Peugeot 504 and when she knocked the gate, the former Super Eagles star saw her and screamed in Yoruba “ki lo wa se? Ta lo ni koo wa? Shebi mo si send owo si yin ni last month.” A neighbour disclosed that the woman went back in the vehicle that brought her and that it was Mutiu Adepoju, who was with him then that gave the woman some money.
Findings revealed that the only people Rashidi associated with in his neighbourhood were the poor ones. He formed a habit of giving out raw rice and vegetable oil to some of them in the neighbourhood. At times he would give out money in envelopes and some of the beneficiaries confirmed that at times they found as much as N 10,000 in such envelopes.
An elderly man in the neighbourhood spoke to Street Journal in Yoruba, he said “iku re dun mi, o ka mi lara ju ti maa mi gaan lo. Ko fe ki ebi o pa mekunu. Nigba mii to ba fun yin ni envelope bayi, bee ba sii, owo gidi lee ba nbe” (his death hit me really hard, even harder than that of my mum. He never wanted the poor to go hungry. Sometimes he would give you an envelope and when you open it, you will find out its good money).
Yekini’s neighbours disputed claims that he was mad. One of the people who shared fences with him said “if he was mad, he would not go and engage a labourer to cut the grass in front of his compound when it is due, a mad man will not put on his generator to watch European Champions League games and how would a mad man drive a car and go to the stadium to do exercise? Someone who is mad will definitely not be able to coordinate such activities.”
It was gathered that he was last seen at home on Easter Day. Some of his neighbours say they suspect foul play because his family members who he never really trusted were the ones that came to take him away that day. Some of them told Street Journal that they didn’t allow him to know they were coming and they waited quietly in the neighbourhood. Immediately he drove in and was about to open the gate, he saw them and before he could ask what they wanted, they charged at him and put restraints on his legs. “We were wondering what was going on because the guy wasn’t crazy, he was sound, at least he could coordinate his activities, so why bind him under the guise of taking him for treatment? I think there is more to it. He was even crying for help that day begging that people should not allow them to take him away. I think a post mortem examination should be conducted to determine the actual cause of his death,” one of Yekini’s neighbours said.
It was gathered that he was taken away in his green Toyota Corolla and that was the last the neighbours saw of him.
His Playing Career
Rashidi Yekini holds the record of Nigeria’s highest goal scorer with 37 goals as a member of Nigeria’s senior national team, the Super Eagles. He scored Nigeria’s first ever World Cup goal in a match against Bulgaria at the 1994 edition in USA.
He started his soccer career as a 17 year-old with the UNTL of Kaduna after which he moved to the Shooting Stars of Ibadan. He played for Abiola Babes of Abeokuta and after the club was disbanded, he moved to Ivory Coast where he laced boots for Africa Sports. After three seasons in Cote d’ Ivoire, he moved to Victoria Setubal in Portugal and in he scored 90 goals in his 108 appearances for the club.
His career suffered a dip in 1994 after an injury and his moves to clubs like Olympiakos (Greece), Sporting Gijon (Spain), FC Zurich (Switzerland) never really paid off. In 2002, he returned to Nigeria where he played for Julius Berger FC. After a stint with Gateway FC, he retired and continued his quiet life in Ibadan.
*This article was reproduced by the kind courtesy of the Street Journal.
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